Featuring a stunning natural setting, innovative building design, state-of-the-art exercise facilities and a vibrant social community, Uniting Bowden Brae is earning numerous accolades for its exceptional approach to healthy, active and connected retirement living.
Creating an environment that prioritises residents’ wellbeing was a guiding principle from the start according to Diane Jones, Executive Director at PTW, the architects behind the second stage development at Bowden Brae.
Jones says that “connection to green space, fresh air and sunlight came together to shape the project.” And “designing for the social connections that go hand-in-hand with these natural ones” was just as important.
In recognition of its outstanding design, the stunning new village recently won two major awards, the Best Retirement, Aged Care and Seniors Living Development at the Urban Developer Awards for Industry Excellence 2022 and the Best Seniors Living Development award at the Urban Taskforce Australia Awards 2022. It was also a finalist in the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) Awards 2022 for Excellence in Retirement Living.
A “green heart” and connection to nature
According to Jones, the surrounding area truly set the scene for the design of Bowden Brae. Normanhurst is celebrated as a garden suburb and it was important to tap into that sense of place in bringing the community to life.
“It’s relaxing and rejuvenating to stroll through the village's beautiful gardens and landscaping, or to look out on them from indoors,” she says.
The site's sweeping outlook and northerly aspect are also a major part of its appeal. “Your zone of physical activity can diminish as you get older and less mobile, but your psychological wellbeing depends on you keeping it as broad as possible, even if it's purely on a visual level,” Jones explains.
“At Bowden Brae, you have the advantage of having close views, middle views and distance views, which is a huge plus. This visual variety means that you don’t ever feel caught or boxed in like you do in some apartment developments.”
At the centre of it all is Bowden Brae's "village green," which is both an open space and the focal point for its communal facilities. It includes a childrens’ playground, level areas of lawn for games like boules and croquet, and space for both small and large gatherings. Access to sunshine, shade and shelter have all been carefully taken into account, as well as proximity to the café, gym, pool and clubroom.
“Even if you're a bit frail and can't venture far, you can always look out to the village green from your apartment and see nature, a passing parade of residents and guests, visiting grandchildren in the playground and so on,” Jones says.
Retirement living designed for social interaction
As research now shows so convincingly, loneliness and a lack of social connections are leading causes of depression and decline in old age.
Bowden Brae's architects directly addressed this issue with a design that encourages both planned and spontaneous interactions among residents.
Jones likens it to a small neighbourhood, and says that it offers all the benefits that go with living in a community alongside others.
The buildings are laid out in a way that encourages both passing conversations and longer get-togethers. And common areas, walkways and front door access were all designed to make social interaction a priority.
“The paths from your elevator to your front door are places where you can mix with people. And Building B, for example, has a lounge area near the elevators so if you meet someone there, you can just sit down and have a chat,” Jones says.
Daily outings to the café, gym, pool, hairdresser, library and clubroom add to the neighbourhood vibe.
Connections with family, friends and the community
“From the very beginning we talked about how the facilities were for residents, but also for their family, friends and visitors,” Jones says.
The result is a community that helps maintain wider relationships, including intergenerational ones. “The fact that people can have their grandchildren come after school and have a generously spaced playground to run around in is a real drawcard.”
Allowances for everything from visitors with prams right through to residents with walkers and mobility aids were factored in. “There’s enough space that you’re not crowded and dodging pieces of equipment all over the place,” Jones explains.
As well, everything from the stylish café to the generously proportioned clubroom make it easy and enjoyable to get together with visitors and guests.
“Reablement” and exercise as medicine
Along with nature’s therapeutic effects and the joy of connection, staying healthy through proactive exercising is seen as hugely important at Bowden Brae.
“Reablement” challenges the idea that physical and mental decline in old age are inevitable and irreversible. As research shows, many exercises and activities can help older people maintain or even regain balance, coordination, strength and cognitive ability.
The Service Manager for Seniors’ Gyms, Elly Williams, says that Uniting has prioritised reablement by creating high-quality fitness programs and exercise spaces for residents.
She says the average gains for those who start an exercise program and stick to it can be impressive.
“We reassess at 6-8 weeks and generally see a 25% increase in leg strength,” Williams says. “Plus regular users report that everyday tasks get easier, they experience less shortness of breath going up stairs and they can participate more easily in activities like helping with their grandkids.”
State-of-the art gyms and dedicated staff
When asked what makes Uniting’s gyms special, Williams says it comes down to three factors: the qualifications of staff, the user-friendly equipment and the level of supervision.
Bowden Brae and other Uniting gyms boast high-tech machines which remember individual settings and can be adjusted by very small increments to suit older users.
Staff are well versed in the special needs of seniors and have the knowledge to issue an “exercise prescription” to support residents’ goals.
“Countering loss of muscle and bone as you age are key areas of concern,” she says. “Unfortunately, typical exercise programs for older people tend to be of low intensity and not necessarily targeted to resolve their individual issues. Our approach addresses different chronic conditions rather than just offering gentle exercise.”
“In particular, resistance training in a gym helps users get the stimulus they need to improve muscle and bone strength.”
Staff are there to guide, monitor and encourage residents all the way from initial assessment and baseline testing through to their regular workouts, follow ups and progress checks.
Uniting Bowden Brae offers “apartments for life”
Enabling residents to live independently for longer periods without having to transfer to a higher level of care is at the heart of Bowden Brae’s approach to retirement living.
“People want to live in their own home for as long as they can and be as healthy as they can,” says Diane Jones. “And that includes both physical and psychological health.”
“That was the guiding principle for the design, and our job as architects was to help put that principle into built form.”
In light of Bowden Brae's recent accolades, it's clear that these goals have been both met and surpassed. As a result, there’s a high level of interest in the community, and apartments are selling very quickly. To learn more, book an apartment tour or secure a place at Bowden Brae click here.